Ghislaine Maxwell judge warns jurors may have to work through New Year’s weekend as the threat of Omicron threatens to scupper Epstein friend’s sex trafficking case
The six men and six women charged with deciding whether Ghislaine Maxwell should be convicted of sex trafficking are facing the possibility of spending the New Year in their jury room as their deliberations continue at a snail’s pace.
Judge Alison Nathan warned them on Tuesday that they will have to sit over the weekend as she worries that the rapid spread of Covid could strike one or more of the panel and lead to a mistrial.
The jurors say they are ‘moving along’ and that they are making progress in the case but they failed to reach a verdict on the fifth day of deliberations.
They returned to the courthouse in downtown Manhattan on Wednesday morning to see if the sixth day would end the long wait for a decision.
Before the jury came in late Tuesday, Judge Nathan said that if a verdict was not reached by the end of Wednesday she would tell the jury it would have to sit on the weekend until reaching a verdict.
Judge Nathan had planned to sit only until Wednesday and then let the jurors off for the holiday, but the Omicron variant has scuppered those plans.
On Tuesday morning the judge said that the rising number of Omicron cases was ‘putting at risk our ability to complete this trial.’
Ghislaine Maxwell lowers her mask to take a drink of water during the fifth day of jury deliberations Tuesday
Judge Alison Nathan is growing increasingly concerned that the spread of Covid could scupper Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex-trafficking trial
The jury of six men and six women (seen in a court sketch) went home for the holidays after the third day of deliberations and will once again have a short week due to the New Year holiday
Isabel Maxwell comes out with a pizza for the media after the fifth day of deliberations for the jury in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial on December 28 without a verdict
Lead defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim and attorney Christian Everdell leave court on Tuesday after the jury failed to reach a verdict
According to Judge Nathan, none of the jury panel had objected to sitting an hour extra each day to deliberate – a ‘request’ she made on Monday -meaning they finish at 6pm instead of 5pm.
She said that the change was because ‘we are seeing an astronomical spike in the number of Covid positive cases in New York.’
The reason was to ‘avoid a mistrial due to the Omicron variant’ of the coronavirus.
Judge Nathan added that ‘we are facing a high and escalating risk that the jurors or participants may need to quarantine, putting at risk our ability to complete this trial.’
She added it was time to think about the jurors ‘making plans to continue to deliberate until a verdict is reached.’
Judge Nathan did not elaborate, although during the week leading up to Christmas she offered the jury an extra day to deliberate, which they declined.
Maxwell suffered a setback Tuesday after Judge Nathan rejected her request to give the jury additional instructions on one of the counts related to transporting accuser ‘Jane’.
Ghislaine Maxwell’s sister, Isabel, was in court to support her sister for the fifth day of jury deliberations
Isabel was standing in front of a person with a gas mask and sign that states: ‘Les Wexner, Donald Barr, this has gone way too far’
Judge Nathan plans to sit throughout the New Year’s weekend unless jurors come to a decision before then
The judge said the request by Maxwell’s lawyers to clarify a count to the jury was ‘just wrong.’
On Monday the jury sent a note asking whether they could convict Maxwell on one of the charges relating to the accuser Jane if they concluded Maxwell aided in booking her a flight back from New Mexico.
Judge Nathan had previously referred the jury to the instructions she gave to them.
But in a letter filed to the court, Maxwell’s lawyers argued that this was ‘incorrect and prejudicial to Ms. Maxwell.’
They said that the jury were ‘confused’ about not just count four – transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity – but count two – Enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts – as well and requested an additional, three paragraph instruction to clarify.
Judge Nathan rejected the request to address count two as the jury didn’t ask about it.
The judge dismissed the third paragraph of the suggested instruction as ‘just wrong’ under the law and said she would not give the jury any additional guidance.
As the ruling came down Maxwell’s lawyer Bobbi Sternheim rubbed her back with her hand.
Maxwell appeared in court wearing a black turtleneck sweater and black pants and gave two of her lawyers a hug.
Her brother Kevin and her sisters Christine and Isabel were in the public gallery.
On Monday the jury sent a note asking whether they could convict Maxwell on one of the charges relating to the accuser Jane if they concluded Maxwell aided in booking her a flight back from New Mexico
Ghislaine’s sisters, twins Isabel and Christine Maxwell, are seen arriving at the Manhattan courthouse Tuesday morning
Defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim speaks with twins Christine and Isabel
Defense attorneys Laura Menninger and Jeffrey Pagliuca arrive as jury deliberations continue
Maxwell’s defense attorney Bobbi Sternheim arrives to the courthouse Tuesday morning as deliberations continue
The jury failed to reach a verdict on Monday when it requested a transcript of the testimony of the ex-boyfriend of one of the victims and a definition of ‘enticement,’ one of the charges related to that victim.
Like last week, this will be a short week for the proceedings. Because of the New Year holiday the jury will deliberate today and Wednesday and if they don’t reach a verdict will take a break until Monday.
On Monday, in a surprise move, Judge Alison Nathan urged the jurors to stay an hour later each day. Sessions will now end at 6pm instead of promptly at 5.
Maxwell’s lawyer Laura Menninger had argued that giving the jury such an instruction was ‘beginning to seem like urging them to hurry up.’
Prosecutor Alison Moe said that it was ‘within the court’s discretion’ to ask the jury to stay longer.
Judge Nathan initially told Menninger: ‘I have the discretion to set the schedule and I can do it over your objection.’
She later said she would add the qualifier to the jury that they should take all the time they needed.
There was also intense legal debate around a note from the jury which asked whether or not they could convict Maxwell on one of the counts related to Jane if they thought Maxwell aided in arranging her flight home from New Mexico.
Prosecutors wanted to refer the jury to their instructions while Maxwell’s lawyers argued that the answer should be no.
Judge Nathan said that the note was ‘ambiguous’ and told the court: ‘I don’t know what the question means, it’s too difficult to parse factually and legally’.
She referred the jury to the relevant part of the instructions she had read out before they began their deliberations.
Earlier in the afternoon the jury sent notes asking for transcripts of testimony from Epstein’s former pilot Dave Rodgers and Gregory Parkinson, the former Palm Beach police officer who recorded the video of the raid on Epstein’s house in 2005.
The jury had also asked for a transcript of the testimony from one accuser’s boyfriend and stationery supplies as they began their fourth day of deliberations.
An hour and a half after starting on Monday the jury sent a note asking for different colored Post-it notes, a white paper board and highlighters in different colors.
The jury also asked for the testimony of Matt, the boyfriend of the accuser Jane, who corroborated her account of being recruited and abused by Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein aged 14.
They requested a definition of enticement – one of the two charges that relate to Jane include Maxwell enticing her to be sexually abused by Epstein.
After taking questions from Maxwell’s lawyers and the prosecution, Judge Alison Nathan directed the jury to two parts of the jury instructions for a definition of enticement.
She gave them the additional instruction that it could mean: ‘Attracting, inducing or luring, using hope or desire.’
Ghislaine Maxwell has worn a number of different colored turtleneck sweaters throughout her trial, now in its fifth week
After taking questions from Maxwell’s lawyers and the prosecution, Judge Alison Nathan directed the jury to two parts of the jury instructions for a definition of enticement. She gave them the additional instruction that it could mean: ‘Attracting, inducing or luring using hope or desire’
They also asked for a definition of enticement – one of the two charges which relate to Jane is Maxwell enticing her to be sexually abusing by Epstein
Maxwell walked into court looking relaxed having spent Christmas – also her 60th birthday – in prison.
She wore a light brown turtleneck sweater and a black mask and hugged her lawyers one by one as her sister Isabel sat in the public gallery.
Maxwell’s lawyer Jeff Pagliuca told Maxwell: ‘Happy birthday and happy Christmas’.
Her lawyer Bobbi Sternheim requested that Maxwell be allowed to wear a KN95 mask at all times and not just in court – Maxwell had a different mask on in her holding cell.
Judge Nathan said anyone entering the courthouse had to wear a KN95 or and N95 in the courthouse, as per a ruling that took effect on Monday and required all visitors to wear such masks due to the rise in coronavirus cases.
The jury of six men and six women ended their first week of deliberations Wednesday without reaching a verdict forcing the British socialite to spend Christmas behind bars.
Maxwell, who is facing 80 years in prison if convicted, has been in custody at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, which she’s described as a ‘hell hole’, since her arrest in July 2020.
Jurors began weighing her fate on Monday last week after hearing closing arguments in the three-week trial, and deliberated for two full days before going home for the holidays.
In this courtroom sketch, Maxwell, center, hugs her defense attorney, Laura Menninger, immediately after walking out of lock-up Monday
On Wednesday the jury sent one note requesting three transcripts, but failed to come to a decision.
Maxwell has maintained her innocence and her lawyers have bashed her accusers as having false memory and being motivated by money.
But they are not appropriate for a ’59-year old woman who poses no threat to anyone’, Maxwell’s lawyers claimed.
A bruised Ghislaine Maxwell is seen in this photo of her alleged mistreatment in prison
At one point, Maxwell ‘barricaded’ herself in the video conference room in prison with a cart of legal documents, prosecutors claimed and was deemed a ‘security threat’ by blocking the door and preventing guards from accessing the room.
Near the end of Wednesday the jury asked for another copy of the transcript of the accuser known as Jane’s testimony.
They also asked for the testimony of Kate, another accuser, and Epstein’s former Palm Beach House manager Juan Alessi.
Given the option to deliberate on Thursday the jury said no because they had ‘made plans’, they said in a note.
Maxwell, 60, denies six counts of recruiting and transporting underage girls for her former boyfriend Jeffrey Epstein.
On Tuesday – the second day of deliberation – the jurors appeared to be zeroing on two accusers.
They deliberated for the whole day Tuesday and sent four notes to the judge including one which related to Annie Farmer, the only accuser publicly identified in court.
They wanted to know if they could use her testimony for two counts of conspiracy to entice and transport an underage girl to engage in sex acts.
Pictured: The Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) where Ghislaine Maxwell is being held
Judge Nathan said she would tell them that they could.
Earlier the jury asked to see notes of an FBI interview that Carolyn gave in 2007, the first time she spoke to law enforcement about being abused by Epstein.
Judge Nathan said that it had not been entered in evidence so they could not see it.
However the jury could refer to its mention in Carolyn’s cross examination by the defense.
Defense attorney Menninger said that Epstein was a ‘master manipulator’ who ‘abused his money and his power’ but said Ghislaine had nothing to do with it
Four of Maxwell’s siblings – Kevin, Isabel, Ian and Christine – arrived to court to support their sister Monday
At 10.10am after just over an hour of deliberating on Tuesday the jury sent its first note.
Judge Nathan said the jury were asking for the transcripts of testimony from Jane, Annie and Carolyn – but did not mention Kate.
The charges against Ghislaine Maxwell
Count One: Conspiracy to entice a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts
Maximum sentence: Five years
Accusers: Jane, Carolyn and Annie
Count Two: Enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts
Maximum sentence: Five years
Count Three: Conspiracy to transport a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity,
Maximum sentence: Five years in prison
Accusers: Jane, Carolyn and Annie Farmer
Count Four: Transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.
Maximum sentence: 10 years in prison
Count Five: Conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors.
Maximum: Five years in prison
Accusers: Carolyn and Virginia
Count Six: Sex trafficking of minors.
Maximum sentence: 40 years in prison
Kate is the only accuser whose claims should not be considered crimes as charged in the indictment.
The jury were not brought out and Judge Nathan said she would give them the transcripts in the deliberation room.
Maxwell walked into court wearing a black turtleneck sweat and black pants while holding a green folder.
She hugged her lawyers and waved at a young woman in the public gallery.
Maxwell’s defense delivered closing arguments Monday afternoon, telling the jury that she is ‘an innocent woman wrongfully accused of crimes she did not commit.’
In her closing remarks, Maxwell’s lawyer Laura Menninger said: ‘The government has failed to prove any charge beyond a reasonable doubt and the only correct verdict in this case is not guilty on each count.’
The defense again attempted to discredit the accounts of the four accusers, as Menninger stated, ‘The evidence has established what we told you it would, that the stories relied on by the government are erroneous memories, manipulation and money. But in this case the order is reversed. The money brought the accusers to the FBI where their personal injury lawyers sat right there.’
As for how Maxwell was portrayed, Menninger said that she had been made to look like ‘Cruella de Vil and the Devil Wears Prada all wrapped up into one’.
Such a portrait was ‘as old as Hollywood’, Menninger said.
Menninger said, ‘The lawyers manipulated their stories and the government accepted their stories without ever corroborating them.’
Menninger said that ‘suddenly’ the accusers ‘recovered memories years later.’
She said: ‘The recovered memories that Ghislaine was involved, that Ghislaine was there, that Ghislaine was the culprit.’
Menninger said that the prosecution spent a lot of time talking about Epstein’s lifestyle, about his wealth and his property and his private planes ‘just like a sensationalist tabloid would’.
The couple appear in one photo in what appears to be a European city. Ghislaine is seen kissing Jeffrey Epstein on the cheek
Members of the prosecution team at the Ghislaine Maxwell trial walk out of the Thurgood Marshall United States Courthouse with boxes of papers as the jury deliberates
Menninger said that Epstein was a ‘master manipulator’ who ‘abused his money and his power’.
She said: ‘We are not here to defend Jeffrey Epstein, he is not my client’, but she added: ‘Ghislaine Maxwell is not Jeffrey Epstein’.
Menninger claimed that when Epstein died the prosecution ‘pivoted’ to going after Maxwell.
The idea was that ‘Ghislaine was there, she must have known.’
Menninger criticized prosecutors for showing the jury dozens of photos out of 38,000 seized from Epstein’s New York home in 2019.
She said: Where are the other 31,960 photos? Who was in those photos? Was it other girlfriends? Other women?
Nor should the jury draw any inference from Epstein keeping photos of Maxwell. Menninger asked the jury that if an ex boyfriend or girlfriend had photos of them, would that make them a ‘sex offender’?
Menninger condemned the use of such images as ‘straight up sensationalism.’